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Study: 1 in 4 older adults of color report discrimination in U.S. health care

Written on Apr 25, 2022

Older Americans are experiencing racial and ethnic discrimination that is taking a toll on their health, according to an analysis by the Commonwealth Fund.  

Researchers examined experiences of racial discrimination in health care among Latino/Hispanic and Black older adults using the Commonwealth Fund 2021 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. The survey, conducted from March 1-June 14, 2021, was taken by a nationally representative sample of 1,969 U.S. adults 60 and older. The survey was also taken by 16,868 adults 65 and older in 10 other high-income countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  

Key findings: 

  • Among the 11 high-income countries surveyed, 32% of older adults in the U.S. reported that their health system treats people differently because of their race or ethnicity. That compares to 17% of older adults in Canada and 16% of older adults in Switzerland. 

  • In the U.S., 1 in 4 Black and Latino/Hispanic older adults said they have been treated unfairly or felt their health concerns were not taken seriously because of their racial or ethnic background. That is about eight times the rate for older white adults who said the same. 

  • Twenty-seven percent of older adults in the U.S. who experienced discrimination based on race or ethnicity reported not receiving the care they felt they needed. 

  • In the U.S., older patients experiencing discrimination based on race or ethnicity have more healthcare needs and are more likely to report material hardships and feel dissatisfied with their care than older patients who do not report discrimination, the report said.